Review by brutusmuktuk
"Mimics so much of other video games it has no identity of its own"
During a time in which developers utilize one or two successful elements of popular games in their own, Naughty Dog uses them all. For starters, it's a sequel and we all know that almost every game is guaranteed a sequel. The hero, Jak, has turned into a raving lunatic, a.k.a a dark hero, despite his quiet, child-friendly demeanor in Jak and Daxter. Jak has turned to the ever popular gun fights instead of fists and feet. The largest cliche of them all? The mimicry of Grand Theft Auto. Jak now finds himself in a city which, like the GTA series, is a hub world where Jak must travel by stolen vehicle to each mission. In the process he can run over pedestrians and attract the attention of the city guard if he wants, because he has that freedom to do so. Freedom to allow the gamer to do what he/she wants is the new motto for developers, thankfully, but gamers can exercise a very similar freedom when choosing whether or not to play a game.
In order to connect Jak 2 to the original game, the four main heroes Jak, Daxter, Keira, and Samos are all thrown through some sort of portal. This portal takes them to a place called Haven City. The Baron's (Baron of the city) henchman, Erol, imprisons Jak and performs some strange experiments on him dealing with Dark Eco. I don't feel like explaining what eco is, because I don't truly know myself. Samos and Keira have been split up from Jak, although it's unknown whether they have been imprisoned. Daxter helps Jak escape and they end up in the city. Jak has gained a voice because of the experiments (he didn't speak in the first game) and it's obvious that he's not too happy. He curses at and threatens an old man he and Daxter bump into. This spurs on the game's funniest line when Daxter mentions that Jak isn't used to the whole talking business. From this point on the story turns into a mess and tries to bring in too many subplots and characters.
I welcome a good story in an action game as long as the cutscenes are fun to watch and don't take up too much time. The cutscenes don't take up too much time in Jak 2, but they're not that much fun to watch. The dialogue is poorly written so that any attempt at humor or wit or even meanness is thwarted. The so-called humor will make you frown, the attempts at wit are off cue, and when characters act mean and tough they only serve to be silly. I don't see any reason for them to be so mean and tough, plus they talk as though they never graduated from middle school. Daxter is the main source of humor, like in the first game. In the first game, though, he served to make up for the words Jak didn't speak since Jak didn't speak at all. In Jak 2, Daxter seems to want to hang on to the light-hearted, slap-stick humor of yore, even though the series has obviously headed toward a more mature and mean-spirited direction. The game cuts back and forth between the darker tone and Daxter's goofiness so much my head began to hurt.
Besides the lame dialogue, another thing that ruins the story is the amount of characters and subplots. You never spend enough time with any of the characters to get to know them. While the GTA series has a similar set-up it doesn't have a central storyline, but instead has you run into many unique characters with fun dialogue. Jak 2 tries to tie in all of the side characters into one central storyline but fails at developing those characters and their relation toward Jak and the story. One scene in particular that didn't work due to the lack of development was a scene involving the two girls Keira and Ashelin and Jak. In this scene Ashelin and Keira are obviously jealous of the other being in the company of Jak. What doesn't work about the scene is that the game never develops a real romantic interest between Jak and either of these girls. So it's basically a joke with a punch line only the developers understand. A few scenes that do work involve Daxter as he flirts with an undercover girl. She seems to find him so amusing that she forgets he isn't even the same species as her. These scenes work because they develop the relationship between the two instead of expecting the gamer to pretend the development happened.
When people say that Jak 2 isn't so much like GTA to earn the name, Grand Theft Jak, they're wrong. Jak 2 imitates GTA better than those games that look like they might take place in one of GTA's worlds. From the way missions are set-up to the mini-map Naughty Dog studied Rockstar's children hard. You follow symbols on the map to reach your destination and even learn about your missions in the same way Tommy Vercetti learns about what he has to do. It's the same thing of watching a cutscene explain the mission and throw in some characterization before throwing you out to play. If only Naughty Dog studied the maps a little harder they might have had a place that wasn't so tedious to travel through. The sheer size of the world and the linearity of the map probably cause the traversal of the world to take up more time than playing through missions.
Maybe you have fond memories of running through the city of one the recent Grand Theft Auto games. Between missions you would run over old ladies, drive down the streets at incredible speeds, perform enjoyable side missions, and other memorable stuff. You won't hold Jak 2 with the same fondness. Traveling through the city isn't just tedious, it's a pain. Vehicles don't give a warning before they blow up like in GTA, they just do and take down a quarter of your life in the process. In order to avoid crashing into vehicles you might find yourself driving on the lower altitude (vehicles can either hover just above the ground or at a height safer to pedestrians) and running over the pedestrians (the ground is littered with pedestrians who seem to be walking nowhere, or perhaps just happily trying to find their way out of the city). Don't worry, though, the police force in the game is a joke. You can easily outrun the cops and they forget about you after a short time. The short attention span of the cops is the least of Naughty Dog's problems with this game, though.
Part of the fun with Jak and Daxter was traveling through the game's world in search of the precursor orbs and with no real missions to accomplish. It created some freedom. In Jak 2 you travel to certain areas in order to accomplish a mission and not because you're exploring took you there. Because of this it feels restricted. Jak and Daxter has fun puzzles and doesn't focus too much on combat. When it does focus on combat it's not anything too flashy. Jak 2 has only a few puzzles that match the ingenuity of the original game. It also has one memorable moment that brought me back to the original. In this part you have to ride the hover board and chase down gigantic winged insects through a beautiful green environment with water and trees. For the most part, though, Jak 2 has you resort to guns. And guns aren't always fun. It felt like I stayed back, pushing a button on the PS2 controller to shoot enemies rather than play a game. At least Ratchet and Clank makes the gamer move around to dodge enemy attacks while gunning them down. Also, at least weapons leveled up. Using guns just isn't very fun or interesting in Jak 2 there's no real reward.
Jak and Daxter not only has a child friendly story, but child friendly gameplay. Jak 2 does the opposite on both counts. This game is meant for teenagers or adults who can handle frustration and have nothing better to do. Traveling through the city would bore kids enough to cause them to quit. It's tedious enough for adults and teens. The mission difficulties are sporadic much like in GTA 3. One mission you will breeze through and the next you'll finish missing your voice due to screaming and sitting on a couch full of your own hair. Only a few make you feel satisfied. I like tough games, but game developers should figure out where the line between wimpy and unfair lies difficulty-wise. Doable just doesn't cut it.
I would give the visuals of Jak and Daxter a perfect score. Jak 2 runs on the same engine and looks nice in screenshots, but while playing the game I couldn't help but notice how dull it looked. The city especially looks dull. While it's possible that Naughty Dog wanted to make the city look like a dirty, crummy place, there are ways to do that without making it look dull. I would rather look at the bug-ridden (computer glitch bugs, not insects) city of GTA than the dull city of Jak 2. I don't think I could state that any other way. Only one area really impressed me. It's a forest area with lots of dark green, water, trees, cliffs, and such. It impressed me so much I must have cried every time I had to leave.
A new rule of video games seems to be to have excellent voice acting. Jak 2 doesn't break that rule. Of course, great voice acting doesn't override poor scripting unless the voice actor is just that good. I'm sure you can guess that there is no voice actor that good here. The music doesn't stand out because, frankly, I can't remember any of the tunes nor can I remember myself enjoying any of the tunes as I played. But, really, no matter how good the music is, I wouldn't recommend the game.
Jak 2 packs a good 20 hours for those who care to stay for the whole thing. It's twice the length of Jak and Daxter, but a minute's worth of Jak and Daxter packs more fun than an hour's worth of Jak 2. The longevity score isn't affected by, nor affects, the score of the entire game but reflects how long you may possibly spend with the game. I'm assuming that most people who start a game eventually finish it. Heck, I finished this game. Fans of the original will finish this game and even play the next that's the point of sequels. They are made so the fans can enjoy more of their favorite character or title (oh no, it has nothing to do with marketing strategies and making money). The developer only has to make the original game outstanding and the series gains a significant fan-base. But this section isn't meant to criticize game developers, but talk about game length. So I say, do you want to spend 20 hours of your life on this game (much the same way you'd spend $20 on it)?
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 02/14/05
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